Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Olaf

Final blog post from a great 2014, and looking forward to The Great British Baking Show airing Stateside on PBS tonight.

Did you all have good Christmases? It was a pretty ace one this end and we started the week in a festive mood from Winter Wonderland onwards.

Gruffalo's Child

On Monday we took our girls (with my mate Matthew, his fiancée Aga and their girls) to see The Gruffalo’s Child at the Arts Depot in Finchley. Sarah and I used to live just round the corner from the Arts Depot in our first flat and we really miss living in North Finchley. It’s a great town with a buzzy high street and some really good restaurants and pubs, including the very cool Bohemia. The Gruffalo’s Child was excellent and the kids were transfixed. There are a few programmes that our girls watch on loop around Christmas time: The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, The Snowman, and The Snowman & The Snow Dog. Our eldest was lucky enough to see The Snowman at the theatre with my mum last year and we took her to see The Gruffalo the year before so it’s becoming a bit of a Christmas tradition.

Blue shirt cooking

On Tuesday we packed up the car and went off to Frinton-on-Sea in Essex for Christmas. My parents-in-law (Alan and Fran) moved up there from London a few years ago when they retired. We spend a lot of time up in Frinton as my in-laws’ house is right on the sea front. It’s a great place for the kids with a really long, sandy beach. Alan and Fran have an awesome new kitchen there too (pictured above), which I christened last Easter practicing signature and showstopper bakes just before filming for Bake Off began. This year there were quite a few of us for Christmas including Sarah’s brother James and his fiancée Vicky; Sarah’s sister Kate, her husband Karsten and their two boys; and my Grandfather-in-law Joe (pictured with Fran, James and me in the picture above).

Father Christmas
Sarah’s Grandad Joe has had a pretty special year this year too. He’s 91 so is one of the few D-Day veterans left. He went out to Normandy in June and made the cover of the Daily Telegraph with one of the most memorable pictures of the year. He was also invited out to commemorations in Eindhoven in September. On Christmas Eve, Sarah’s Aunty Marian, Uncle Keith and cousins came round and I made Beef Wellington for 20. It tasted great but I need to perfect the timings so I’ll be practising again on New Year’s Eve. Funnily enough, not many people complain about being guinea pigs when it comes to testing Beef Wellington! Joe had all six of his Great-Grandchildren with him on Christmas Eve so dressed as Father Christmas for them (in the picture above) and gave them all presents. It was dead cute.

Frozen girls
Christmas Day was great. The girls loved all their presents, including their Frozen costumes that they’ve worn for three days running now! I got my Wüsthof kitchen knives, which I used to prep the sprouts and carve the turkey: they’re razor sharp! Sarah was pretty chuffed with her presents too so I think I got it right this year! Like most families up and down the country, we ate til we couldn’t move and watched rubbish telly. I got to sneak off and watch the brilliant Doctor Who Christmas Special, my personal TV highlight. Sarah snuck off to watch Downton Abbey. Everyone was happy!

Boxing Day walk
Boxing Day was probably my favourite day this week. We took the kids for a long walk on the beach all the way up to Walton Pier, where there was a fishing competition taking place. We walked to the end of the pier, looking at all the fish in the fishermens’ buckets. We then took the kids ten pin bowling for the first time and they all loved it, even the little ones – concentrating so hard and waiting patiently for their turns while getting really excited when the bowling balls came back up the conveyer belt. After bowling, we popped into the penny arcades and played on the 2p machines before walking all the way back home for me to make leftover Chelsea Buns:

Chelsea buns
We came back home yesterday and got to do Christmas all over again with my Mum and Dad, my sisters Joanne and Katherine, and their other halves and kids. Our kids have been so lucky to spend this week with all their cousins. Both of my parents are only children and as such I have no aunts, no uncles and no cousins, so I get really happy seeing my kids enjoy having big extended families. We’ve spent today unpacking and putting the house back together as we have 18 people over tomorrow for a party. I’m going to enjoy relaxing and entertaining as much as possible for the next few days as come January I have a huge mountain of work and a looming deadline so it’ll be nose to the grindstone time.

Kitchen conversions

Unsurprisingly I got quite a lot of cooking-related Christmas presents this year, including the tea towel I was after with US to UK conversions (above) – might come in handy if I start talking baking with viewers of The Great British Baking Show (I’ll be tweeting with the hashtag #PBSBakingShow). We also got a great tea towel (below – totally anatomically perfect of course) from our babysitter, Charlotte, who we’ve kept pretty busy the past few months now I suddenly have a social life!

Super Burrs

I hope you all have fantastic New Years and thanks for reading my blog for the past few months. If anyone’s staying in on New Year’s Eve, keep an eye out for me on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny!! See you in 2015…!

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